Sleep less deeply and wake up more often during the night.
Have more trouble adjusting to changes in sleeping conditions, such as a different bed.
Have changes in their sleep cycle. Older adults spend less time in the most restful stages of sleep.
It's common for older adults to sleep less deeply and for less time than they did earlier in life. But these normal changes in the sleep patterns of older adults do not mean that the sleep they get is enough.
When Nancy Levitt's mother was first diagnosed with dementia 14 years ago at age 78, the doctor told her she could safely drive to familiar places. But Levitt, 61, who volunteers at UCLA's Center on Aging in Los Angeles, was still nervous. Unexplained nicks and dents started appearing on her mother's car. She forgot where she parked. Levitt tried to discuss driving safety with her mother, but she angrily denied there was a problem. Then, she would forget their talks about driving altogether.
Routine poor-quality sleep caused by health problems, medicine use, and stress from major life changes can lead to chronic sleep problems at any age. This may increase the risk of serious health problems, such as depression. But few older adults get, or try to get, treatment for sleep problems. If you are an older adult and have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about what you can do to improve your sleep.
If you care for an older adult who isn't sleeping well, you might encourage him or her to try the above tips for improving sleep.
Doctors recommend taking sleep medicines only now and then or only for a short time. They are not the first choice for treating chronic insomnia. This advice about medicines applies to everyone, but especially to older adults. Anyone can become dependent on sleep medicines, and these medicines can affect how well older people think during and after long-term use.1
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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